The requirements of getting married are simple, although they vary from state to state. In general, a man and woman wishing to marry must obtain a license in the state in which they wish to be married, usually from a county clerk or a clerk of court. The fee usually is low.
Many states require the man and woman to have blood tests for venereal disease–but not for AIDS–before the license is issued. Some states do not require this test if the two already have been living together. If the test shows that a would-be spouse has a venereal disease, certain states will not issue a license. Other states will allow the marriage as long as the couple knows the disease is present.
In some states, the couple must show proof of immunity or vaccination for certain diseases. A few states demand a general physical examination.
If one or both of the parties have been married before, the earlier marriage must have been ended by death, divorce, or annulment (although in some states, if a marriage was never valid, a legal action for annulment may not be necessary).
Parties who wish to marry must have the capacity to do so. That means the man and woman must understand that they are being married and what it means to be married. If because of drunkenness, mental illness, or some other problem, one of the parties lacks capacity, the marriage will not be valid.
Close blood relatives cannot marry, although in some states, first cousins can marry. Of the states that allow first cousins to marry, a few also require that one of the cousins no longer be able to conceive children.
Most, but not all, states require a waiting period, generally one to five days, between the time the license is issued and the time of the marriage ceremony. The purpose of the waiting period is to give a short time to cool off during which the parties can change their minds if they wish. The waiting period can be waived for good reason. For example, if the groom is arriving in the bride’s town only one day before the wedding, but the state has a three-day waiting period, the waiting period probably can be waived by a judge or clerk of court.
In most states, a man or woman may marry at age eighteen without parental consent. Most states also allow persons age sixteen and seventeen to marry with consent of their parents or a judge.
A marriage that is valid in the state or country where it was performed generally will be considered valid in a state or country to which the couple later moves.